Please, White House, Call It Combat in Iraq and Syria

It boggles the mind that the White House, in announcing the deployment of more Special Operations to Syria, still insists on saying that they won't have a "combat mission."

They will tell you that sending Special Operations to advise, train, and assist means troops will behind the front lines, and thus, won't be heading over with orders to join battles.

I was an adviser in Iraq, in 2011, and I can tell you, they're likely to face combat, whether that's their mission, or not. If they are there to train the indigenous forces, can the White House guarantee that none of these so-called moderates won't turn and fire on our own troops? Will these troops be able to call in air strikes? By definition, that is a combat operation. Will these Special Operators be able to engage in anti-terror operations, like trying to stop ISIS from chopping people's heads off? Usually, that's what they do. That's a combat role.

The point is, unless the White House can guarantee that these troops will be far behind the wire, surrounded by vetted friends, and out of the reach of any enemy operations, there's a good chance they'll be in combat, with mortal consequences.

In fact, just this past week Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler was killed during a raid to free hostages held by ISIS. He was one of the troops sent over there, also with no "combat mission." And yet, he was killed -- in combat.

"Of course he died in combat. That's what happened," Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said last Wednesday. Finally, honesty!

But, by Friday, Carter was singing a different tune.

"It [Wheeler's death] doesn't represent assuming a combat role. It represents a continuation of our advise-and-assist mission," Carter said.

That brings us to today's announcement.

"These forces do not have a combat mission," White House press secretary, Josh Earnest said throughout the announcement that the White House was sending additional troops.

Not only is "combat mission" a completely meaningless phrase, when these troops are likely to face combat, but it does not prepare the American people for the true danger that our troops face.

There have been two times in recent history when troops were deployed, and the danger to them was downplayed -- when Ronald Reagan sent troops on a peacekeeping mission into Beirut, and when President George H.W. Bush sent troops into Somalia. Both were incredibly dangerous regions, and it was clear to anyone in the military that it could result in American deaths. And yet, that danger was never properly conveyed to the American people. Thus, the complete and total shock among the majority of Americans, when lives were lost.

The White House needs to be honest, and needs to prepare Americans for the lives that very well may be lost in combat -- if they truly believe that there is no other way to address the rise of ISIS than to deploy more U.S. troops.

If they feel their decision is just, and necessary, there is nothing wrong with telling Americans that they have weighed all the options and risks, and that there is no other option than to send American troops into an incredibly dangerous situation, where they may have to face combat, and where they may lose their lives.

Not only will it properly brace the American people for what may come, and force people to consider our mission there more seriously, but it has the added benefit of being true and free of spin.

In the end, spinning military action at the outset almost always ends badly. The White House would be wise to remember that.

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